In the final game of the preliminaries before the elimination round begins on Tuesday, the Russians were stunned yet again. This time, Slovakia – who had allowed 10 goals in its previous two games – held Russia scoreless though regulation and overtime to force a shootout. In the shootout, the Russians prevailed this time, as Ilya Kovalchuk buried the game-winner.
Sport: Men’s ice hockey
Score: Russia 1, Slovakia 0, SO
What happened: After two scoreless periods, both Slovakia and Russia were able to find open ice in the third period and with that more offensive chances. Within the first three minutes of the period, both teams had one-on-one chances with the opposing goalie, but were not able to convert.
Five minutes into the third period, the Russians picked up their third power play chance of the game, and appeared to have scored when a slapshot from the blue line hit the crossbar, but it deflected into the far post and then back out rather than into the net.
Both Russia and Slovakia started their backup goaltenders, as each team played a game yesterday and were focused on the more important games starting on Tuesday. Both of the understudies performed well, giving notice to their respective coaches.
After Slovakia had given up 11 goals in its last two games with St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, they changed netminders and went with Jan Laco – who plays for HC Donbass of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League – over the Montreal Canadiens’ Peter Budaj.
The choice was an important one, as the Slovak goalie helped stonewall the Russians on four power plays and stopped all 31 shots in regulation. In overtime, he stopped five more shots with the last one being the most impressive having to dive across the crease and then cover the puck with his leg pads.
On the other side, Russia went back to Washington Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov after starting Sergei Bobrovsky against the U.S. While Varlamov seemingly struggled against Slovenia in Russia’s opening game of the tournament, he was up to the challenge on Sunday. Varlamov stopped 24 shots.
However, the save of the night was made by Slovakian defenseman Andrei Meszaros, who dove to the ice with Jaco sprawled on the ice leaving the net open. As a result of Slovakia’s defensive effort, they were able to force a shootout – Russia’s second in as many nights.
Slovakia: Michael Handzus missed wide
Russia: Alexander Radulov scores
Slovakia: Tomas Tatar stopped with Varlamov’s leg pad
Russia: Ilya Kovalchuk scores, back hand beats Laco low left
While Russia earned the win, they didn’t earn full points and may be forced to play an extra game rather than earning a bye into the quarterfinals due to being the lowest points scoring No. 2 seed from the group stage.
United States 5, Slovenia 1
What happened: After a stunning shootout win over the host Russians, it would be easier to play a game with less energy and emotion the next day. However, the U.S. dispatched Slovenia in a professional manner on Sunday.
In the first period, Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Phil Kessel scored twice off feeds from San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, once between the pads of Slovenia goalie Luka Gracnar and once to the low far corner.
Kessel picked up his hat trick in the next period off assists from Pavelski and Maple Leafs’ teammate James van Riemsdyk. Kessel’s hat trick was the first for an American since John LeClair at the 2002 Winter Olympics against Finland.
Just 12 seconds after Kessel’s hat trick, New York Rangers defeseman Ryan McDonagh scored. David Backes scored a third period goal, but the shutout evaded the U.S. just before the end of regulation when Slovenia’s Marcel Rodman scored off assists from David Rodman and Jan Urbas.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller gave Jonathan Quick a much deserved night off and stopped 17 of 18 shots.
The Americans will be back in action in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, while Slovenia will have to qualify for the quarterfinals on Tuesday.